It is fair to say that there is somewhat of a divide between Newcastle fans at the moment. On the one hand, there is a group of fans who are very active in their attempts to protest against Mike Ashley. These are fans who are intent on being pro-active in order to have a positive impact on our club. This does not necessarily come under the banner of the Magpie Group, but merely individuals who are attempting to apply pressure or create negative attention on Mike Ashley and his company, Sports Direct.
On the other hand, there is a section of the support who take the motto of ‘support the team’. They stress that the manager and the captain (and Keegan according to some) want them to get behind the players so they are going to continue to turn up to matches and do nothing to combat the ownership of Mike Ashley at Newcastle United.
Of course there are fans in the middle, who may turn up to games, but also turn up to protests too. These fans are simultaneously combatting Mike Ashley while also doing their bit to support the team.
I am in this middle group of fans. I regularly attend away games and I have a season ticket at SJP too. I attend protests before the game, I write articles online, I don’t buy from Sports Direct, I don’t buy from the club shop etc. However, in general I love going along to watch my team, sit in Block V and get behind the lads regardless of how rubbish they are.
I have read a lot of articles that have been put forward with a divisive tone. Social media is full of divisiveness in regards to this subject. The only thing is, I am not sure why. Surely we all agree that Mike Ashley is a cancer to Newcastle United and needs to be removed as owner of the club.
You would think that was a given wouldn’t you? A conservative estimate would put 99% of people firmly against Mike Ashley. Surely? Right?
Well this is where I am scratching my head. If that is the case, then why are the numbers of people attending protests or taking some sort of affirmative action against Ashley so low?
Some fans are taking the stance of “Oh well Mike Ashley will leave one day so in the meantime I am going to do absolutely nothing while he kills the club and ruins peoples lives all over the country”.
Or “the boycotts and protests probably won’t do anything or have any affect so I am not going to bother making the effort”.
Likewise, I don’t believe that the argument of “I have supported Newcastle for 50 years and I will keep going” is any justifiable reason to sit there and do nothing as the club slowly drifts away into footballing irrelevance. You can still go to the game and combat Mike Ashley.
Of course, some fans want to attend protests but aren’t able to. People have work commitments, people have families, or I think the most common one is that for many people, their only chance to properly socialise is on a Saturday afternoon before the match, so why waste time standing outside the ground holding a banner? To an extent, fair enough.
However, I must admit that the one thing I can’t abide is fans that are doing nothing at all and then complaining about the actions of those fans that are being proactive and trying to make a positive difference. In regards to the cancelled Shirebrook protest, and their actions on social media, it would be an understatement to suggest that the Magpie Group have messed up.
I tell you what though, they may be disorganised and their chairman may be completely unsuitable for the role, but at least they are trying. If you are directing even 5% of your anger towards the Magpie Group after one day of mistakes, rather than Mike Ashley after 11 years of deceit, then I would really have to question where your loyalties lie.
Perhaps one major problem, especially on social media, is that there are several pages with a 1000+ following who think that they are some sort of super fans. Perhaps they are jealous that they are not the ones leading a fan movement and therefore can’t bring themselves to totally get behind it. Who knows.
Likewise, the question must be asked, where is the local media? What are they doing? In particular, the Chronicle? They have been silent. In fact, the silence is deafening. The Chronicle was once of course a great North East institution and you would have to be blind to fail to recognise its decline in terms of influence, and quality of writing, over the last decade. I think we have reached a point now with the Chronicle that they have made clear from their silence that they value access to Rafa, the side, and keeping the club onside, over combatting Mike Ashley, and ultimately doing what is best for the future of Newcastle United.
It all leads to the question of, do people really care? Do people really care about Mike Ashley owning Newcastle United?
From what I have said so far, and from the games I have attended this season, especially since we were promoted back to the Premier League, I would have to conclude that the vast majority aren’t really that bothered about Mike Ashley.
Of course, given the perfect hypothetical choice, or given the twitter poll, they will always side against Mike Ashley, but are they willing to do anything to make their hopes a reality? In short, no.
Home games this season have consisted more of fans directing their anger towards the players on the pitch who are making honest mistakes, the substitutions made by the manager, or refereeing mistakes. None of them, with the exception of a few hundred in Block V, have shown their anger towards Mike Ashley while he sits in the director’s box smirking.
From my experience, too many fans say they are going along to the game to support the team but in the end they just end up groaning, booing and shouting at their own team. In truth, offering very little actual support. The only fans that do offer support, rather ironically, tend to sit in the Strawberry Corner and Gallowgate Block V. Coincidentally, they are generally a part of the protest movements. So I would argue that the fans who are actually supporting the team the most, are the ones who are organising the protests… including the boycott.
It is conceivable that we have now reached the stage in which it can be concluded that most Newcastle fans value results on the pitch over the ethics, principles and morals of their owner.
For instance, if we win away at Everton, and against West Ham, or a positive result away at Burnley, then that will probably affect the attendance of the Wolves game, more than any action Mike Ashley has taken over the past 11 years. That for me, is a sad indictment of where we are at as a support base.
It doesn’t matter how many games Newcastle win between now and the end of the season, it doesn’t matter if we finish 8th, or if we finish 20th, it doesn’t even matter if we win a cup, because Mike Ashley does not care for this club, he does not care for the people of this city.
So some may say in regards to other fans: “let them do what they want”– but if doing what they want means nothing at all… then should other fans stand for it?
I have tried my best not be divisive but here is my honest opinion, and I don’t speak for the Mag, anyone at the Mag, I just speak for myself, so feel free to find me on twitter (@_jonathandc) and tell me what you think…
I have no problem at all if fans do not want to boycott. It is your decision and your prerogative. However, there are numerous other ways in which you can be doing something meaningful to combat Mike Ashley at Newcastle United. Boycotting is just one means, it is not the be all and end all. There are many others including;
Don’t go to the game.
Don’t spend money at the club shop or on official merchandise.
Don’t spend money in the ground on beer or food.
Don’t spend money at Sports Direct or affiliated companies.
Attend protests at Sports Direct and/or SJP.
Carry banners in the game or sing anti-Ashley songs, especially during televised games.
Use social media to highlight the Ashley era and negatives of Sports Direct.
Attempt to engage with local politicians.
Attempt to engage with local and national media.
Even if you can’t, or won’t do any of those things, then verbally, financially or logistically support those that do.
There is ten off the top of my head, that range from time-consuming actions to activities that require no effort at all.
Consequently, if you can read those 10 options, and you are not doing even one of those things, which means you are doing absolutely nothing at all to combat Mike Ashley, then I would say that you don’t really care about Newcastle United.
You can follow the author on Twitter @_jonathandc